The snow was mostly subpar this season. Long stretches of no snow fall. Most of the early season terrain didn’t even open up until mid-January. That began a stretch of about five Saturday pow days in a row. Which also began the parking armageddon up the canyons.
Saturdays were usually the day we could start later because no one in the group was hustling to get to work. No longer. You have to be going up Big Cottonwood Canyon no later than 7:00 am and Little Cottonwood Canyon you have to be parking at Alta by 5:30 am.
Another disappointment this season was the touchy snowpack. At first, it looked like we were going to get a clean slate. The first big storm cycle brought 30″ and afterwards the tap shut off, making it by far the worst snowpack I have seen in the Wasatch since I have started skiing. The Wilson Glade incident put a dark cloud over everybody. Everyone knows Chris and the team at The Gear Room. Tragic what has happened. It was inspiring to see the community rally around them.
This season I made a bigger emphasis on looking for wind drifted snow. In the past, these were the small avalanches I have triggered the most. I wanted to get better at identifying the pillowing, paying attention to the direction of the wind and what the speeds were for the day. As always with avalanche hunting, you are neither lucky nor good but I’m happy to report I didn’t trigger anything of significance this season and was pleased with the danger being so high all of winter.
I also earned the nickname “Hall Monitor” in the group. I caught this picture of 11 skiers coming up a slide path on a high danger day. The UAC did a good job reposting and educating the influx of new skiers this season. Had a lot of fun this season posting observations and seeing them reposted.
In total, I got 50 ski days in! A new personal best. I think in a normal snowpack (with more stability) that number could have easily hit 60. 150,112 vertical feet for the season with an average of 3,000 foot per tour. Not bad at all. I only skied one day in March. The second storm cycle that month, I was in Costa Rica. It was probably the only storm I missed this season.
The biggest storm cycle we had was a season saving 7 footer! We also saw a death rose during this time too. Most of the old timers posted that they have never seen that occur before. That snow storm didn’t have the most amazing snow to ski unfortunately. By the time the canyons opened it had settled considerably. In fact, Snowbird got some rain in the end. However, it did help stretch the season and for that many of us were grateful.
A disappointing end to the season was Alta announced that they would be starting paid parking up Grizzly. There are only two places to park in Little, near the resorts or White Pine. That’s really it unless you are doing some of the bigger lines on the divide. This will further complicate the pow days on the weekends going forward.
Notable ski runs this season:
- Baldy Main Chute (Solo) – Fourth tracks down
- Pioneer Main Chute (w/ Chris) – Wasn’t on my radar at all but I really love this area. Need to go spend more time back here.
- Lake Peak Chute (w/ Adam) – One of the two steepest lines I have ever skied. We got first tracks with some flat light but an incredible outing how it worked out.
- Birthday Chutes (w/ Kelly) – Terrible visibility but some of the best snow of the season.
- The Hallway and Two Trees (w/ Chris and Ryan) – Not the best snow at the top but The Tube was fantastic. This was my second time down The Hallway. We finished going down through Two Trees. Really loved that area and a good stepping stone to dip my toe in the Superior area.
- 5K day (w/ Adam and Jared) – 7 foot storm cycle spent in Grizzly.
- Will’s Hill (w/ Mike, Kelly, Chris) – New area that I have never done. Loved it.
- 10,000K day in Grizzly (w/ Kt, Adam, Chris and Jared) – First attempt at a 10K day and I was not prepared with enough food. Ended up bumming some bars off a stranger. Bit unofficial. My phone did not cooperate well this season with vert. I will just have to do it again next season!
- Beartrap Day (w/ Mike) – We were skiing in Beartrap. Mike and I witnessed a ton of cracking and collapsing. I had made the comment that someone would die this season off Silver Peak (PC side). Unfortunately, the next day someone did. Spooky.
The rest of the season was in the regular, low angle spots: Mill D, Beartrap, Silver Fork, Point Supreme Area, Grizzly. This season I wanted to explore White Pine–got to do that at the very end. I wanted to get over 100K and smashed that. Also wanted to do a 10K day in there. Mission accomplished.
I can tell by my last tour, I was done making difficult decision this seasons. Backcountry skiers have to make thousands of small decisions that make a big impact. Sometimes life or death. With the challenges this season, I was just done.
Gear wise I also got to do some splurging. The new Scarpa F1 LT are a game changer in terms of stiffness to lightweight and mobility. Highly recommend if you can get it to fit. I also tried the Plum 150s and they have not disappointed. I have been pleased how they have ejected when I need them to. Lastly, I finally pulled the trigger on the Voile Hyper V6s. The easiest ski I have ever used. I didn’t know skis could be so fun. This will be the new set ups going forward.